Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Gay Pastor's Odyssey

This past week I've been working on the stories that a gay pastor sent to me. You can see it here if you'd like. I'm sending Paul Johnson's story to as many people as I can. Maybe it will make a difference. It's a moving personal account of his journey as a gay pastor who ended up expelled from the church he loved to serve.

And...I received an inviatation to preach in Pittsburgh on September 17.

And...A former student wrote that they're heading out of church since they can't find a place in their town that takes their faith seriously.

Church and I have taken some space from each other lately. These days I'm being drawn back into church thoughts.

I keep thinking about Paul's story of years of denial, suicidal thoughts and finally expulsion from the Lutheran Church. What if he'd been encouraged to his explore his sexuality at a young age. What if, upon discovering he was gay he'd been encouraged to see out strong relationships of mutual support for his life. What if the church he loved to serve had loved his service as a gay man????

That's the world I'm looking for. It doesn't seem like much to ask.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Church Walls Go Both Ways

This reader struck a chord when she wrote of growing up outside of organized religion:

I finished the book this past weekend.
Finished it with tears of joy in my eyes!
Thank you for your depth, your questioning,
your communications from the soul!

Growing up outside any organized religion,
an outcast from that inclusionary world,
I felt every pump of your legs on the journey...
felt every shoulder with no room...
every heart that reached out...
and every heart that closed its door.

Until I finished the ride with you,
I had underestimated you, just because
of your connection to the church. Shame on me!
Thank you for the connection, the awakening, and the ride!

And this one struck a chord when she wrote as a member of a church:

It is essential as a Christian that I comment on your behavior. When do you think you will ever find a "perfect" church to worship at? The church is a human organization for worshiping and serving God "as we understand Him". What a tragic image, your wife and kids going off to church as they see you balk at one issue not treated by the church as you feel it should.. Such a poor example for them to see their dad pouting over one issue because it isn't they way he thinks it should be. The church is struggling with this as well as other issues, so why throw the baby out with the bath water. Come on Lars, you will never find perfection in the church so quit pouting and be a part of it, working toward change. I love you all but feel very badly for Anne and the kids.

Early church father Irenaeus wrote, "The Glory of God is Humanity Fully Alive." If church is supposed to help us live a more fully human life, why does it more often seem to create barriers?

These are both beautiful and honest and caring reviews of my book (my life). These readers make me think again about how church walls separate us, no matter what side we're on. Church membership can foster either trust or mistrust. Sometimes the church wall makes it harder, rather than easier, to be "Fully Alive."

Thanks for sharing thoughts

Monday, August 21, 2006


Marketing a book is like holding a giant key ring with hundreds of glittering unknown keys. You keep trying different keys, seeing what might open the readership door.

This weekend I took my first time away from the book in recent memory. Anne had an art show here in town as part of the Riverwalk Fine Arts Festival. The kids joined us for much of it, throwing balls and doing handstands in the park behind the exhibit booths. Overall the kids found it a bit boring. Anne got a lot of great feedback. I got to do gopher stuff and watch people enjoying Anne's work. A wonderful family weekend.

This morning I'm back to shaking the key ring and working to unlock the readership door. Really, just like the weekend at the art show, this is all about making friends, opening the door to community and shared understandings.

Blessings for the day,

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Let not the sun set on anger

So, I got that letter written to folks to share news of Pastor Schmeling's upcoming trial. I sent this on Monday. If you're not on the list and want to be, please sign up.

Then I created a website page with media reporting of the charges against Bradley Schmeling. Take a look if you care to, but especially the blog entries that I've linked to from the FREE REPUBLIC website. These vitriolic remarks make clear the polarization that exists on LGBT equality.

I was thinking of sending these remarks out to our list. Then I thought of the language I hear used against George Bush by my progressive friends, and then... this morning... I found a sermon excerpt from Pastor Bradley Schmeling's worship this past Sunday.

You might find it worth a read. I find it a reminder that we're all in this together, no matter how far apart we are in our views.

At service this Sunday, following the filing of formal charges against him for being in a committed, same-gender relationship Tuesday past, Pr Bradley Schmeling, St John's Lutheran, Atlanta, Georgia, preached on the text of the day, Ephesians 4:25–5:2:

"So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Bradley said that, as "a strategy for living these days, I could not have asked for better words to be provided. …God gave us anger so that we would contain a force at the very core of our being, a powerful voice that says 'no' to being hurt. Anger doesn't accept violence or pain or threat as a condition for [our] existence. It tells us that something is broken that needs to be fixed."
He reflected on the uses of anger in our lives within a Christian setting, acknowledging that anger is at the same time the most difficult emotion to experience and to express. "Anger gives birth to acts of justice because we don't get mad at just the things that happen to us. We get mad at things that happen to others. It is the source of solidarity with the world's pain and suffering," he said. When anger combines with Christ, it is transformed: it heals wounds and creates new things - anger and a tender heart going together in the light of Christ.

In another context, addressing his congregation, Bradley has said, "I pray that this situation can be a source of creativity and life, even if marked by some struggle and conflict. I trust that the conversations we have and the decisions we make will help us in our journey to be faithful to Jesus. I trust that God is with us, and that God will provide no matter what the outcome. Even though these conversations may be heavy and may produce anxiety and fear, they will not keep us from the good and abundant life God has for us. We can continue the journey in joy and with the good humor we've always had together."

copied from Lutherans Concerned North America (

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pastor On Trial

So, how do you just write a newsletter that the church you grew up in, after all these years and all these chances to figure out love, acceptance, and equality for LGBT people, is once again putting a pastor on trial for loving his partner and committing to live his life with that person? It would be so easy just to rant and rave.

I decided to create a resource center.

It's up at the website, Check it out, you'll find an incredible number of resource links to organizations doing the work of LGBT inclusion in my Lutheran church as well as other denominations in our country. You'll likely feel the anger and disgust that I do that churches are still prosecuting people simply for getting caught being gay. Hopefully, too, though, you'll see along with the activisits who lead so many organizations and efforts, the evolution toward equality.

I'm working on an ELCA history page right now for the website. Needed to take a break for a minute. Blessings for your day. Now back to how we got here.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Pastor on Trial

Oh, yeah...the blog...this journal.

I'm working on a painful newsletter right now; a couple days back an ELCA bishop filed formal charges against an ELCA pastor for the sole reason of him being gay and having a partner and refusing to resign from his congregation in Atlanta, Georgia. If you're not already getting the newsletter you can sign up at the website (

How do you write this thing? The words aren't coming. Better to journal it first here and then create that newsletter.

Part of what's hard is that this church trial is going to get into lots of church language, and the history of other trials, and the ELCA's commitment to welcoming all people, and the ELCA's discussion last summer that bishops were encouraged to be understanding and pastorally caring, and the reality now of a hard, sharply defined trial coming up soon. It's going to be hard to discuss in all its detail. At core is a pastor committed to the gospel whose being put on trial for one reason, there is no protection for ELCA male pastors who love other men in committed relationshop and for ELCA female pastors who love other women in committed relationships. At core it's about who you get to wake up in the morning and have breakfast with each day.

Part of what's hard is that perhaps this will be the event in the ELCA that shows how ludicrous the ELCA postion about gay and lesbian pastor's relationships is. There is no protection in this church except for the kindness of individual leaders. Any homophobic or rulehappy bishop can pull the trigger on a gay or lesbian pastor's career anytime they want. It just happened a few months ago in Chicago. That pastor chose not to fight the fight in public.

Part of what's hard is that perhaps this WON'T be the event that precipates equality in the ELCA. Maybe we'll just go through one more pastor and one more congregation, and bear the cost of this hypocrisy as the ELCA continues its ever so gentle reduction in membership and credibility.

There's a lot that's hard about this. I don't even know all the dimensions of the sick feeling that I have inside of me. I hurried and hurried all last winter to get Straight Into Gay America published this summer. I figured that LGBT equality would once again be a hot topic in these months before the midterm election. I was wrong-- it's more than hot, it's flaming, with input from President Bush, The US Senate, the US House of Representatives, Supreme Courts in New York, Washington, Nebraska, Alabama, and Georgia, and Governor Schwarzennager in California.

I'm going to let the difficult feelings buble up, and then I'm going to find a way through, and a way forward. Some day gay and lesbian pastors will live without constant fear of national exposure and loss of job. Not yet.

Thanks for helping create better somedays.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006


This morning I came in
for my regular two hours of book work
thinking that selling books
is like starting a campfire.

How to get those first flames started?
Some mornings a dry blade of grass catches.
Other mornings the wood feels wet.
Each day I bring my matches

in hopes this project will grow into a warming fire

with steady sales of books
to feed my family
and grow connections
to readers.

Books feel mysterious,
Containers filled with my life
sent out with no control
of destinations, influence, or impact.

Another morning of striking matches
seeking light for the journey.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Closet Considerations

Some of you know my day job is selling websites to authors and helping them share their books with the world.

Question - Do you show your Straight Into Gay America website to potential clients?

Or do you keep this in the closet until you know them better?

My God! If I'm afraid of losing a sale to a homophobic author, what must it be like for LGBT people who face the daily decision of how, when, and whether to mention gender identity? It's unimaginable to me, but sometimes I get the tiniest taste of this lifelong decision making.

Here's what I can report: As publication progressed through the e-book, A-Page-A-Day, and then on July 18th, with the release of the book, I found myself getting so excited about the book and about what it means that I started telling more and more people.

On a technical level, is a pretty good author site, well worth showing to potential clients. So I started showing almost everyone my website.

Guess what's happening. The 72 year old Deep-South coach tells me that he found out his best man at his long-ago wedding is gay, and he discovered it only recently when his friend got AIDS. "I'll love that man until the day I die. " he told me. The publisher in Florida that I spoke with yesterday called me up and said she was on my website, even as we spoke. She went on to explain that along with how-to books, publishes a line of lesbian literature. "

If I think back on these last few months of deciding when and whether to share my Straight Into Gay America work, I don't have a bad encounter to report. Read Jody Huckaby's PFLAG report this week for a really hard-hitting report on hate-language and hate-crimes. This report hit me in the gut, and I take it with all seriousness.

Also, though, I have to remember this experience, that almost everyone I talk to during my work hours has a story of some LGBT person they know, or being an LGBT person themselves. I need to keep coming out of the closet of my fears.

Blessings for your journey today,


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Fish Can't Fly

Here's the good part of writing a book: New Connections. New Friends. New Knowledge. Tom and Stephanie shared their projects with me. They'll inspire you, too.

Fish Can't Fly:
Tom emailed to offer me his DVD about ex-gay stories. Talk about timely. Brian meet Tom. Tom meet Brian. http://www.fishcan.

I've been wanting to hear stories from people who've tried to become ex-gay. The religious right is all jazzed up about promoting ex-gay ministries, but LGBT people report -- "It almost never works." Still because of the stigma of being gay in America, desperate people try and try to rid themselves of what Mel White calls, "The blessing of being gay."

Thank you Tom for introducing me to your work. I look forward to learning from the stories you have gathered.

Seven Passages:
Stephanie emailed me: "Let me introduce myself -- I'm a straight professor at a fairly conservative Christian college where i teach theatre. I've spent the last few years interviewing about 150 gay Christians about their experiences. I am taking these interviews and turning them into a piece of theatre that will be produced first by a small (local) professional company and then tour in the next year.
"Nearly 90 percent of the interviews come from people I've met right here in this small midwestern city. The stories are so moving and sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking. It's been just an incredible journey to do this project that began as just some conversations with my gay students and blossomed into something that is much larger than myself. The goal is to educate and produce empathy and understanding."

Thanks for partnership in justice-making,


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

When Damnation comes.

I may write more about this sometime, but here's the line:

"I found myself on my own at eighteen years of age. "Adjust to the fact that you are no longer our son" I was told when I could not definitively state I was not a homosexual. The low point of this period was when I had to pawn my microscope for eight dollars to buy potatoes, macaroni and butter."

"Adjust to the fact that you are no longer our son"

Somewhere tonight another mom and dad and child are reenacting this same hell,

Brian wrote me yesterday after learning of Straight Into Gay America. I read his story of anguish, of ex-gay experience, and finally of celebration at his artist website, If you wonder what motivates's the day when we live the truth that love conquers all, and damnation no longer feels necessary.